The Alternative View (TAV) was issued a POFMA correction direction on Sunday (4 Sep) for a Facebook post they made. The post questioned how much profits HDB will be making from the $877k BTO flats in Ang Mo Kio.
Ministry of National Development (MND) responded by saying that HDB actually incurs a loss, and hence TAV should be corrected.
“Implicitly this post is stating that HDB is making profit from the sale of the Central Weave @ AMK Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, which are part of the August 2022 BTO sales exercise…This statement is false.”MND
Is the statement by TAV actually false?
The statement they are faulting is TAV’s question “How much profit is HDB reaping from this?” POFMA corrections are meant for false statement of fact. This means that the statement in question has to be a statement of fact, and false. Yet the MND has failed to properly explain why TAV’s question fits either criteria.
The statement was determined to be false based on the interpretation that TAV was trying to say that HDB reaps profits. However, this interpretation is a subjective one, made with MND’s assumption that TAV is insinuating that HDB makes a profit.
There is another very plausible interpretation – that TAV genuinely wants HDB to reveal how much profits they are making from the sale of BTO flats. In this case, the statement made by them is not even a statement to begin with. It is a question, even if it is made with the assumption that the profit is positive.
Either way, HDB could have answered TAV by revealing that their profit is negative for this project. Why was there a need for POFMA?
When a statement receives a POFMA notice, there should be a proper explanation for why the statement is false.
The only information given was sweeping statements about how HDB gets a deficit from giving out grants and making housing affordable. However, netters feel that more information should be given.
“In fact, it will incur a loss from this project, as the estimated amount to be collected from the sale is lower than the estimated total development cost of the project. If we take into account the CPF housing grants that HDB will extend to eligible buyers, the deficit is higher still.”MND
MND said that the losses are estimated, yet this estimation became a “fact” used to correct TAV. Moreover, there is no information about how this estimation came to be.
This instance illustrates how POFMA is not factual itself.
POFMA website says that directions can only be issued if:
- A false statement of fact has been or is being communicated in Singapore through the Internet; and
- It is in the public interest to issue the direction.
Yet the POFMA issued to TAV shows that it doesn’t have to fulfill either of the criteria. It can be based on an assumption made by the complainant (MND). There is also no need for the complainant to go into detail to explain why the statement in question is a statement of fact. They also don’t have to explain what the truth is.
Basically, it seems like all the complainant needs to do is to say that the statement in question is false based on their own interpretation of the statement, and based on their own truth.